Turning 16 is pretty major stuff, that usually (if you’re lucky) comes along with a few exciting gifts, or at least a big party. But this year, Lauren “Ren” Bank got a gift she wasn’t expecting on — and it’s captured the Internet’s heart.
As the Keller, Texas teen tells Babble, her grandpa (or “Papa,” as she calls him) rang her mom up on March 22 and said he had a present for Ren’s birthday.
“When he gave it to me I was speechless,” she explains. “I couldn’t even cry I was in so much shock … It was the most precious and once-in-a-lifetime gift I will ever get.”
Her gift? Three spiral notebooks — chock-full of memories written by her Papa.
As Ren explains, the notebooks served as a diary of sorts, in which her grandpa carefully documented their many adventures together throughout her childhood. All in all, these tales — which he called “Papa’s Stories” — totaled 185 pages that spanned over four years.
“He wrote about everyday life with me,” says Ren. “Holding my hand protecting me, flying kites, singing, music … All that writing and all those pages just for me.”
The teen later shared snapshots of some of the pages on Twitter, which promptly caused the Internet to break down in a puddle of emotion.
“Today for my birthday, my grandpa gave me 3 books filled w stories of each time he hung out w me from the age of 2 to 5,” she tweeted. “I am speechless.”
“OMG THIS IS THE CUTEST THING EVER,” commented one Twitter user.
“I’m crying, this is so sweet,” wrote another.
But the idea behind the gift isn’t the only sweet part — each entry of “Papa’s Stories” is more heartwarming than the next. I mean, just try not to get emotional reading this one:
“Holding your hand is my favorite thing to do, because I know that when I’m holding it nothing bad will ever happen to you.”
(BRB, I have something in my eye … )
The heartwarming gift may have been a surprise to Ren, but it’s also pretty fitting, given the nature of her relationship with her Papa.
“My grandfather [and] I have had an extremely close relationship as long as I can remember,” Ren tells Babble. “He has mentored, guided and helped me to my whole life.”
I feel lucky to say I know just what that’s like.
My own grandpa (whom I also call Papa) has been documenting our family history for nearly 30 years — not by notebook, but by film.
He picked up his first-ever camcorder back in 1988, to record my sister’s christening. It was a rental; one of those early-version VHS camcorders that was bulky and huge and came in a giant carrying case that you’d sling over your shoulder like some kind of luggage. But he fell in love with it, and before we knew it, he’d bought one of his own.
That massive black SONY camcorder would follow me around for most of my childhood and on through my teen years. It was there when I had friends over after school; at dance recitals and graduations. It captured some of my sister’s first steps, my brother zipping around the driveway on his bike, my mother cooking dinner in the kitchen, and my father (usually) under the hood of a car.
Now, at close to 92, my Papa still pulls out his camcorder whenever I stop by and take him to breakfast or down to the river near his house (though I’m happy to say he’s since upgraded to something smaller). “Where to?” he says, as he pulls it out and hits record.
Just like Ren, I’m forever grateful for all the memories I’ve shared with my grandpa, as well as the moments he’s so lovingly documented for us to look back on. There’s nothing quite like the bond between a grandparent and their grandchild, and having those memories captured forever in such a heartfelt way is special, to say the least.
BRB, I’ve got something in my eye again.